08 Sep 2023

Secretary of State announces appointment of five members to the Board of Tourism Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, has today announced the appointment of Mrs Aileen Martin, Mrs Linda MacHugh, Mr Ciaran O’Neill, Ms Áine Gallagher and Mr Colin Johnston as new Tourism NI Board Members.

In the absence of Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive, this appointment was made under the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2022.

The Members have taken up post with effect from 8 August 2023.

These new Members will bring a wealth of private and public sector experience to the Board of Tourism NI to the benefit of the local tourism sector. The successful candidates have extensive backgrounds in such areas as corporate governance; financial management; strategic thinking; business improvement and the hotel and hospitality industry, and their significant knowledge and skills will play a key role in ensuring that this important sector goes from strength to strength in what promises to be an exciting time for tourism in Northern Ireland.


Aileen Martin is a Director of Hastings Hotels, Chair of John Atcheson Trust and Rosie’s Trust and President of Northern Ireland Polio Fellowship. From November 2023 she will also be a Non-Executive Director of Action Cancer.

Linda MacHugh recently retired after 18 years as a senior civil servant during which she held a number of positions including Director of Urban Regeneration Strategy, Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister, Director of Water & Drainage Policy and Director of Corporate Support Services in the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). She also led the Local Government Reform Programme and was Acting Deputy Secretary in DfI.

Prior to joining the Civil Service, Linda supported and promoted the textiles and clothing sector as Director of the NI Textiles and Apparel Association and the Irish Linen Guild and was a Board member of the NI Textiles & Clothing Training Council. She also spent 11 years as a Trustee of the Meningitis Research Foundation.

Ciaran O’Neill is Managing Director at the Bishop’s Gate Hotel Derry, an award-winning establishment that opened its doors in 2016. Beyond his professional achievements, Ciaran has made lasting contributions to the industry landscape. A decade of service on the Board of Visit Derry reflects his dedication to promoting tourism and its growth. His 14-year tenure on the Board of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation culminated in his role as President in 2016.

Ciaran’s dedication extends to nurturing future talent in the tourism sector through his role as Chair of the Hospitality and Tourism Skills Network (HATs) and his commitment to education as Chairperson of the Board of Governors at St Cecilia’s College.

Áine Gallagher is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland, having trained with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Belfast. She is a former Chair of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee and Non-Executive Member of the Advisory Group of the Northern Ireland Audit Office and was Director of Operations for Culture Company 2013 Ltd, the company established by the then Derry City Council to develop and deliver the inaugural UK City of Culture in 2013. She was Director of Finance and Corporate Services for Northern Ireland Hospice and worked for Invest NI for two separate terms, most recently in 2021-22. Since 2018, Áine has provided consultancy services to clients in the public, private and voluntary sectors on strategic planning, governance, organisational effectiveness, funding and finance, management reporting, capital and development projects, as well as growth, improvement and cultural programmes.

Colin Johnston has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry.  Joining Galgorm Collection in 2001, Colin held several senior management roles before taking the helm as Managing Director in 2016.  During this time Colin managed the integration and £60 million development phase at Galgorm as well as spearheading the development of the £10 million renovations of The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat and more recently has been involved in the acquisition and development of The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn.   Colin was instrumental in setting up Galgorm’s Spa Scholarship in 2018 and was a founding member of the Northern Ireland Hospitality School which launched in 2021.  More recently Colin has been appointed onto the Board of Hospitality Ulster and is chair of the Careers & Skills Group.

The appointments will be for 3 years.